Jedi Mind Tricks

Life has been kind to me despite near exhaustion brought upon by repeatedly staying up late attending to miscellaneous parental duties1, but the interstitials allowed me to do some fun geeky stuff - against all odds, as it were.

I’ve already written about AirPrint spoofing on 10.5 (which I’ve yet to package in a pretty script), but I’ve also been doing some AirPlay trickery of my own, which is currently good enough for me to toss over YouTube URLs at my WDTV and is available for your perusal (even if somewhat broken) at Github.

I’ve also managed to take up an active interest in Objective-C again, and have been tinkering with a number of things, ranging from the core-plot library (which I’m using to do visualization prototypes) to my own fork of ShiftIt, which has made it tremendously easy to manage windows on my Mac using nothing but the keyboard - i.e., besides tweaking the usual accelerator keys for switching between windows, apps, and spaces, I can now arrange windows on my screens with naught but a key press, which is tremendously satisfying and (to an outsider) apparently magical.

It bears mentioning that Shelf has also seen some love, and I hope to write more about it soon - as soon as I’ve added a couple more features that will make it truly mind-blowing.

But as far as mind tricks are concerned, there’s another little twist. I’ve been using my Linode VPS as a poor man’s Citrix server by dint of running a VNC server there and connecting via SSH from my iPad, which provides me with a surprisingly useful setup as far as coding is concerned - since I run Dropbox at the VPS to sync my site’s content, i can easily bring in some code trees (git repositories and all), fire up gedit and mostly forget about what I’m using to write code.

Even considering that there are, in fact, some annoying text input hassles (mostly related to the way traditional UIs rely on keys that the iPad simply doesn’t support properly), it’s a pretty sweet setup considering that it takes me only two or three taps to get back where I was last time (including switching on the iPad), whereas starting up any kind of laptop would take enough time for me to get distracted.

Latency isn’t a problem (even over 3G) for editing text or firing up Chrome to check docs, mouse handling with iTeleport is great, and having a no-frills, zero distractions desktop helps quite a bit when I’m reviewing code. However, it bears repeating that dealing with a standard UI on an iPad leaves some to be desired - even if I got out my Bluetooth keyboard, Apple didn’t bother to implement support for most of the typical control key combinations (they’re not even available at the SDK level)2, so it all feels like a bit of a kludge.

Fortunately, there’s a better way. A few weeks ago I started taking part in beta testing TextTastic 2.0, an iPad editor with syntax highlighting for nearly everything I code in (and then some), and much to my enjoyment it works perfectly with Dropbox - including grabbing a complete file tree off it, editing the whole thing and uploading it back again, which is very nice indeed.

As a nice bonus, it has Markdown previewing (just tap on a button and it renders your markup as HTML), so I can also draft posts in it - but right now it’s my go-to app for reviewing code and making those nagging little changes you usually would hate to pick up a bulky laptop for.

I think I’m going to like 2011.

  1. Allow me to reiterate that sleep deprivation is the worst possible form of long-term torture, and leave it at that. ↩︎

  2. And, incidentally, there seems to be no mention of improved Bluetooth keyboard support in the upcoming 4.3 release, which is a shame. ↩︎

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